Republican gubernatorial candidates around the country are trying to replicate their party’s winning strategy from 2020 in Virginia, by using dog-whistle campaign ads aimed at scaring white voters about non-existent critical race theory curricula in public schools.
GOP candidates in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nebraska are airing commercials and touting their opposition to CRT, which is rooted in an academic concept that contextualizes how structural racism influences the law and public policy.
It can’t be stated enough that as applied to in-class instruction, CRT is only taught at the graduate level to law students, and even then only as an elective that’s not universally offered at all law schools. There’s no evidence that CRT is taught as part of any grade-school curriculum in any public school system anywhere in the country.
That hasn’t stopped some Republicans from using CRT as code for teaching anything about the country’s history with racism, from trying to legislatively ban elementary-level lessons on American history to pushing book bans at public libraries.
As if all of that weren’t profoundly undemocratic, Republicans are now using the CRT bogyman as the very platform they want to use to take power in statehouses, including in important swing states. In Pennsylvania, named GOP hopeful Dave White, who bills himself as a “blue-collar candidate” despite owning a big HVAC contracting firm and pumping millions of his own money into his campaign, is running this ad:
The commercial starts by telling viewers that CRT teaches that a little white girl was born racist, and moves on to White saying that, “...the best way to teach and unite our kids is to teach them about all that is great about America.”
It’s unclear where lessons on slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, redlining, the internment of Japanese citizens, McCarthyism, the assassinations of multiple American presidents and civil rights leaders, CoIntelPro or the codified denial of women’s suffrage would fall in an educational system that only teaches kids all that’s great about the country.
In Nebraska, two GOP hopefuls are actually arguing over which one opposes CRT more.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Jim Pillen and Charles Herbster exchanged verbal blows Tuesday on their positions opposing the teaching of critical race theory.
Herbster started it with a news release suggesting that Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent, has a “history of embracing it.”
“Because of his liberal ideology and weak leadership, Pillen is the reason the university is indoctrinating our students,” Herbster stated.
“Jim Pillen’s lack of action and courage on critical race theory when Nebraska students needed him the most is shocking,” Herbster said. “His sudden reversal in a paid ad for political purposes is too little, too late.”
Kenny Zoeller, Pillen’s campaign manager, responded with a statement declaring that “Jim Pillen was the first elected regent in America to take a stand against critical race theory.
“Jim has been a nationally recognized leader in the fight against CRT in higher education and in our schools,” Zoeller said.
And in Wisconsin former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and businessman Kevin Nicholson are also trying to use CRT to get votes.
Their heavy focus on how race is taught in schools thrusts further into the spotlight GOP attempts to make education policy a campaign strength. But in Wisconsin specifically, it’s a particularly salient area for Republicans challenging [Gov. Tony] Evers, a former state schools superintendent whose entire pre-political career was in public education.